Mario Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a Serious Silly Strategy Game

first_img ‘Star Wars Pinball’ Has Your Favorite Brand in Ball FormSNES Games Officially Come to Nintendo Switch What a weird emotional roller coaster Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle has taken us on. Rumored before the Nintendo Switch itself was even revealed, gamers were hesitant to see Nintendo’s beloved plumber team up with Ubisoft cretinous Rabbids. However, after Shigeru Miyamoto himself helped unveil the game at E3, minds began to open.Our first few hands-on sessions confirmed that the strangest thing about the game isn’t even its mascot mash-up but the fact that it is a tactical strategy game in the style of X-COM. However, while the mechanics showed an absurd amount of the promise, the early stages left me unsure of whether or not the game would be challenging enough to require so much complexity. But now that I’ve spent a few hours with the game’s various modes ahead of its launch later this month, I can safely say a sentence as silly as Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a serious strategy game.I played a few matches in the first of four worlds, the standard jungle environment, just to refresh myself with the mechanics. Each round lets you take turns controlling three different Mario and/or Rabbids characters either taking out all the enemies or reaching a designated safe zone. There’s much to consider with each action. Should I leave myself out in the open and guarantee a hit or move behind cover and flip a coin? Should I travel across the map using Rabbid pipes, or leapfrog off of my teammates using the team jump technique? And when should I activate my passive ability like Rabbid Peach’s healing field or Rabbid Yoshi’s protective shield?In the early levels, you won’t need to stress too much about your plethora of strategic options, even if you do appreciate that they are there. However, I then jumped into the game’s penultimate world and was forced to use every tool available to me just to survive. This was a spooky, Luigi’s Mansion-esque world full of Boos that spirit you across the map if you touch them, ghoulish Rabbid grunts that emerge from the ground, and coffin-wielding Rabbid heavy soldiers you must flank to outmaneuver their impenetrable shields. This is exactly the kind of in-depth, brain-scratching problem solving I wanted from this game.Describing any particular tactic in Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle sounds absurd given the subject matter but let’s do it anyway. Because Luigi had taken damage in the previous skirmish, I brought well-rounded Mario, passive healer Peach, and powerful Rabbid Mario into battle. Before starting I viewed the overhead map to plot out a course to the safe zone. I then customized my characters’ weapons and stats.The sheer density of what I could do was nearly overwhelming, even with the game’s advice, but in a great way. Increasing Peach’s range seemed smart since when she lands from jumping allies around her get healed. Rabbid Mario’s spread gun with a burn effect would come in handy, as long as allies weren’t caught in the blast. And if I managed the cool-down correctly, I could wallop nearby foes with Mario’s hammer melee sub-weapon.Even with all my planning, I had to adapt to what the game threw at me. If Mario got taken out quickly due to a health-draining vampire attack so be it. If there was an opportunity to dash attack into three foes at once with Rabbid Mario then lucky day. Between movement, attacking, and using a technique, there are a lot of actions you can perform with each character during any given move. And considering how exponentially their movement options increase when they work together, this later level demanded I learn how to control space. I used Rabbid Mario’s magnet dance to pull enemies out of cover before having Peach throw a Splinter Cell-themed bomb that bounced them out of the arena. I love it when a plan comes together.After my second and more successful attempt at that battle I solved one of the game’s light puzzles that pop up in the exploratory phases between the fighting. I pressed switches to redirect light beams around. It was pretty low-impact, like an early shrine in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but I needed the breather after the satisfying mental stress of the last encounter.From there it was time to fight the boss, a spotlight-hogging phantom Rabbid who wails opera with Mario parody lyrics presumably composed by beloved Rare musician Grant Kirkhope. Between this and Super Mario Odyssey, this is the year of vocal songs in Mario games. I won’t say how I (nearly) took down this boss, but again the fight made great and challenging use of the tactical tools you have available (and presumably will become more skilled with while playing the game from the beginning).I finished my demo by playing two of the game’s co-op missions with a member of the development team. Each holding a sideways Joy-Con (which presents some annoying control compromises so nab a second Pro Controller if you can) we each controlled two characters. Already, having four characters to collectively deal with instead of three opens up even more tantalizing, strategizing possibilities. We had Luigi hang back and snipe bomb-throwers who crossed his line of sight using his Mario Kart 8 meme-referencing Death Stare ability. We then bounced Mario off of Rabbid Peach across a chasm to enemies isolated on a higher plateau. I consistently underestimated the horizontal and vertical range I could take advantage of.Standard single-player battles usually only took a few minutes, making them great for portable play on the Nintendo Switch. But this co-op mission teeming with enemies was much longer, more conducive to longer play full of communication with a friend on the couch. Tom Clancy’s Snipperclips. Co-op was a ton of fun, but the single player is the star of a show. There will also be challenge maps where you can experiment with new strategies and weapons, including weapons you unlock through Amiibo figures. With recent marquee Switch games like Mario Kart, Arms, and Splatoon 2 focusing on multiplayer, playing a big single player game immersed on a TV or the Switch’s gorgeous screen was a refreshing change of pace.Finally, I got to chance to chat with Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle creative director Davide Soliani, now famous for getting touchingly emotional when Miyamoto gave him a shout out during the game’s E3 reveal. I learned some fascinating tidbits about the project. The shockingly pretty cartoon visuals are powered by the Snowdrop engine. That’s also the tech that runs The Division, a very different game on different platforms. But getting the engine to run on the Nintendo Switch once hardware arrived only took a few weeks. And while the team began developing the game before the knew exactly what the Switch was, they had a hunch it might be smart to tailor the game for a portable experience.I can confirm Rayman won’t be in the game because he is now once again his own #brand separate from the Rabbids. The team hopes this game can raise the Rabbids’ profile as far as quality video games go. Standing next to a character with a track record as sterling as Mario’s is probably strong motivation to push yourself. I’ve loved some Rabbids games in the past, including Rabbids Go Home on the Wii aka French Katamari Damacy. But Mario + Rabbids is the first Rabbids game in nearly a decade with some actual promise.As for the weird Mario side of things, while this wasn’t a conscious choice, this strategy RPG’s more comedic take on the Mushroom Kingdom reminded me of the tone of other Mario RPGs like Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. As a huge Nintendo fan, Soliani had of course played all these games. And if this game is successful, he would love to be involved in future, even stranger Nintendo/Ubisoft collaborations. I would love to see how upsetting a Rabbid Waluigi would be.Turn-based strategy games like X-COM, Fire Emblem, and Advance Wars are some of my favorite games. They’re like chess but with animation. So I would have been extra disappointed if Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was a bad, shallow take on the genre solely designed for brand synergy. But from what I’ve played that isn’t the case at all. Not since Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars on the 3DS (developed by X-COM mastermind Julian Gollop) has Ubisoft surprised me with a strategy game on a Nintendo platform as seemingly deep and cool and random as this. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle for the Nintendo Switch is the real deal.Want to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch.Buy it now!The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WindNintendo SwitchProtect Your Nintendo Switch With These Awesome CasesView as: One Page Slides1/61. Mario and the Raving Rabbids have joined forces to make a promising video game.2. Rabbid bosses put weird spins on classic Mario iconography.3. This turn-based strategy game resembles classics like X-COM.4. I’m very excited for this game.5. The surprisingly vast amount of movement and combat options really lets you plan out elaborate strategies. 6. Bizarre premise aside, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is shaping up to be a fun, deep, beautiful tactics game for Nintendo Switch.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on targetlast_img